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Government Builds Bio-Healthy Parks for Older Adults in Spain (excerpt)

To stimulate seniors’ physical activity and improve quality of life, municipalities are constructing outdoor exercise facilities

By Vicente Romo-Perez, PhD, Professor and Head of Faculty of Sciences of Education and Sport, University of Vigo, Spain

Bars are part of a park in Redondela, Galicia.
Bars are part of a park in Redondela, Galicia.

Spain is home to some of the world’s oldest people. According to the EUROSTAT, in 2008, the average life expectancy was 84.3 years for females and 78 years for males. This is contributing to a rapid increase in the elderly population. In regions such as Galicia, the elderly exceed 20% of the total population.


One of the most pressing social problems in Spain is the physical dependency of older people; this has an important social cost that is carried by the government through the autonomous states. A healthy and cost-effective method to decrease physical dependency and improve quality of life for the elderly is to increase their physical activity. Therefore, governments are designing programs and facilities intended to enhance the physical mobility of older people.


Construction of Bio-Healthy Parks

In Spain, the municipal governments are commissioning the construction of "bio-healthy" parks. The construction of these parks began a few years ago. The first development initiative was in Leganes, a town close to Madrid, and construction of these parks expanded to others cities. The main aim of these parks is to promote the practice of physical activity in older people. These parks are a public service for the elderly population.


Construction of these parks is supported by the municipalities, sometimes alone or in cooperation with the governments of states. The governments agree to construct these facilities because they are inexpensive; they are easy to use and easy to maintain; and they can be built almost anywhere: in city centers, parks, or gardens. About seven companies build bio-healthy parks in Spain. Some originally built children’s parks, and when they saw the demand for bio-healthy parks, they began to build them.


There are no regulations for these parks, but several companies use the UNE-EN 1176 and 1177, the laws for children’s parks.


About the Parks

In many European countries, bio-healthy parks are targeted to the general population (such as England’s adiZones for the London 2012 Olympic Games), but in Spain, the parks focus on the elderly.


A typical park occupies a small area 100 meters square, closed by a fence, which can be built in any public area of the city. The park consists of several exercise apparatuses and a signboard displaying the instructions for use. All components are built in steel tube, painted with corrosion protection, have vandal features, and are anchored to the floor. In general, these machines are for strength building and employ the user’s body weight as resistance. The devices have names familiar to older people such as lift, bus, horse, wheel, and so on.


The average cost of a bio-healthy park is 12.000€, although this varies depending on the characteristics of the facility, type of pavement, type of enclosure, number of units, and auxiliary facilities.


To read the entire article, go to Active Aging Today. If you’re not a subscriber, subscribe now.

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In European countries, physical activity parks are being built by local governments to provide a place for older adults to practice and perform physical activities.

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